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Bahutva Karnataka calls for coordinated all-India civil society response to counter hate

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ* 

Several citizens representing and belonging to a wider spectrum of civil society participated in a virtual National Consultation on Sunday April 24, 2022, to address and to plan actions regarding the targeted violence, hate and discrimination which has been taking place across the country. The consultation was initiated and under the aegis of ‘Bahutva Karnataka’. A preparatory note for the consultation said:
“The year 2022 has seen a sharp upsurge in organised violence by Hindutva groups, especially against Muslims. The ‘Sulli Deals’ and ‘Bulli Bai deals’ which attacked the dignity and freedom of Muslim women, the genocidal calls in the Dharam Sansads, the misinterpretation of the HC’s orders in Karnataka and the subsequent harassment of Muslim girls, calls for social and economic boycott to the Ramnavami violence.
“There have been open calls for mass rape of Muslim women, all in the presence of the police. Prior to this there was also violence inflicted against the Christian community in several states and unconstitutional anti-conversion bills have been passed in various states. Atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis have also been steadily rising even as the conviction rates remain poor.
“What is also of concern is that the Sangh Parivar is using youth from marginalised and oppressed communities as foot soldiers in their project of hatred, as was evidenced by how they provoked students of government schools into hatred when the Hijab matter was being heard”
.
The outcome of the consultation was a national call to address and “end the hate” which has engulfed the nation today!
The painful fact is that it has been happening with frightening regularity: slowly, steadily, surreptitiously yet incessantly! These past weeks has seen it unfolding in more dangerous and vicious ways which are intended to destroy the democratic fabric of Indian society perhaps to a point of no return!
Hate which is unleashed to demonize, denigrate, discriminate, dehumanize the ‘other’. In the face of all this, we need to urgently listen and respond to those who cry, “end the hate!”
The Jahangirpuri demolition, with bulldozers, which took place recently, in brazen insensitivity, till the Supreme Court intervened, is just the tip of the iceberg. Any citizen, with a little intelligence, will easily conclude that the act was not about illegal structures (there are millions of illegal structures in Delhi and elsewhere) but the way a policy is being abused to demolish a minority community.
Several thinking citizens of the country: academics, lawyers, human rights defenders, corporate leaders, intellectuals and other members of civil society unequivocally say, “end the hate!”
In a hard-hitting article ‘What the Communal flare-ups manifest’ in the Hindustan Times (April 22, 2022) well-known media personality Rajdeep Sardesai writes:
“The impunity of their actions in recent times — be it organising hate-spewing dharam sansads, spearheading violent gau-rakshak movements or commanding divisive love jihad campaigns — are aimed at resurrecting their political equity in the crowded Hindutva marketplace. That the VHP-Bajrang Dal chose to defiantly go ahead with a shobha yatra on Hanuman Jayanti in Delhi, despite not having police permission, stems from their conviction that their benefactors in power will ultimately protect their interests”.
Sardesai goes on to say that “a deliberate attempt is being made to find polarising issues at othering Muslims-hijab, halal meat, azaan- the list is growing.” He is simply voicing the sentiments of several well-meaning citizens of the country who want the hate to end now!
Among these is Dushyant Dave, one of the finest legal brains of the country and a former President of the Supreme Court Bar Association; in a statement(post/tweet) which went viral on social media Dave says:
“There are 731 unauthorised colonies in Delhi with lakhs of people, and you pick up one colony because you target one community. The police and the civil authorities are bound by the Constitution and not by the orders of a BJP leader.”
The politics of hate, discrimination and revenge are there for all to see. Such a thing was perhaps unthinkable in the country a decade ago! Now it seems to have become an “in-thing”, a meek acceptance! Before it is too late there must be a public outrage to “end the hate!”
The international media is simply aghast at what is happening in India today; editorials and op-eds across the world and in key global languages are literally appalled by the way democracy is being destroyed in India, presided over by a Prime Minister and his fascist regime.
Their message is loud and clear: India is now referred to as a ‘banana republic’ where law and order seems to have disappeared. The warning by all is, before it’s too late, to “end the hate!” UKs prestigious ‘The Guardian’ in a lead article says:
“The surge in communal violence has sparked concern among many in India who fear the country is becoming more polarised than ever along Hindu-Muslim lines. For many, the blame has been directed at the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party, led by the prime minister, Narendra Modi.
“The BJP is accused of overseeing a religiously divisive agenda and emboldening hostility towards India’s 200 million Muslims, relegating them to second-class citizens. Meanwhile, Hindu vigilante groups such as VHP have been allowed to operate freely and have increasingly begun to take the law into their own hands”.

The equally prestigious and analytical ’Washington Post’ also does not mince words:
“The incident was just the latest in a string of clashes between Hindus and Muslims that have shaken India in recent weeks. They have happened on different days, in different parts of the country, but there is a pattern to them: Groups of young Hindu nationalists join peaceful celebrations during religious holidays, then lead rowdy processions into Muslim neighborhoods, sparking violent confrontations.
“Adding to the sense of foreboding, observers say, are a rash of incendiary speeches over the past year by right-wing leaders, including a priest’s appeal to fellow Hindus in December to pick up weapons and ‘conduct a cleanliness drive' that would kill off Muslims. The cleric, Yati Narsinghanand, was accused of hate speech and arrested. While out on bail, he made another appearance this month in north Delhi, near Jahangirpuri, where he warned the audience that nearly half of India’s Hindus would be killed if the country elected a Muslim prime minister”.

Christians in India have also been at the receiving end of a meticulously planned and executed campaign of hate. Every effort is being made to target Christians and to portray them as all out converters, who are trying to destabilise the country.
The ruling regime with its fascist divide-and-rule strategy has succeeded in some places, in putting a wedge between different Christian denominations and also between Christians and Muslims. It is ‘not you but them!’ kind of divisive game!
How else could one explain that some Christian prelates are naive enough to use insensitive and un-Christian terms like ‘love jihad’ -- terminology straight out of the glossary of the Sangh Parivar.
Fortunately, India still has a vibrant civil society group! Campaigns against hate speech are emerging and converging from all over. Webinars and physical meetings have taken place and continue to do so. There is a groundswell of support and the numbers are growing. The underlying message is clear “end the hate!”. Most just say ‘enough is enough’ and demand the hate to stop now! But mere words are not enough.
Many of the hate mongers continue to do so with impunity and have cloaked themselves with immunity. They know full well that they are just delivering for the ruling regime what they actually want! There is, they are convinced, absolutely nothing in the law-and-order mechanism which can ever touch them.
It is so obvious that there is no political will to stop the agenda of hate which is being mainstreamed in the country. On the contrary, there is every effort from the highest seats of power to instigate and foment hate and divisiveness everywhere. They know it pays rich political dividends at election time! With polarisation, majoritarianism naturally increases!
The fact that ‘hate crimes’ are increasing in India is incontrovertible. ‘Hate crimes’ are simply crimes that are hostile and prejudiced in their manner, when targeting a person merely as a result of their: disability, race or ethnicity, religion or belief, sexual orientation and transgender identity.
We see this happening all the time in India today! The perpetrators are well known, the victims are obvious. It goes without saying that the targeting of minorities in India today is a well-planned political agenda toward the General Elections of 2024 (and some of the State Elections just before that).
Above all, it is the grand scheme towards 2025 when the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) will complete hundred years of its existence and in their dreams the establishment of a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ The writing is on the wall. The signs are ominous! Will the people of India arise and take up the challenge to preserve the rich pluralistic and democratic fabric of the nation?
The preparatory note for the April 24 consultation also stated:
“A nation-wide, coordinated response from civil society to counter this is much required before the hate engulfs our land fully. We need to demand that the government functions as per the constitution and we need to demand accountability of the political and administrative machinery and of the constitutional courts.
“ is a call for all of us to get together and get on to the streets to defend our constitution, to stand in solidarity with all those oppressed and say that we will not tolerate the targeted Hindutva violence.
“Some of the ideas could be to have coordinated nation-wide protests on the same day, co-ordinated processes by which we express solidarity to all those who have been hit hard by the violence and other actions. Importantly we all need to be in conversation about how we resist this together”.

A beginning is made!
The people of India would do well to take a cue from Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King who says, “Darkness cannot drive darkness; Light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; Love can do that.”
Or from another stalwart Nelson Mandela who says, “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite”. Hate has never succeeded; only love triumphs. We need to “end the hate and now!”
---
Human rights, peace and reconciliation activist/writer

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